Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Coming Down From Heaven ("Jesus' Carol") -- My Ninth Christmas Poem

[ source ]

This Christmas poem (my ninth) is the third of a trilogy of biblical "narrative" poems: the first being from Simeon's perspective and the second from Mary's. I determined last year that I would try to write a poem from the perspective of Jesus becoming incarnate -- becoming a man, and a baby -- yet remaining all the while God. It was quite a daunting challenge (writing as if one were God speaking!), but I tried to keep it relatively simple, for readers' sake and my own (those wishing to pursue theology proper and Christology -- the Incarnation and Two Natures of Christ -- more deeply, see my Holy Trinity web page). I hope you are edified and blessed by the poem and may God bless you and yours abundantly during this Advent / Christmas season.

Disclaimer for certain wary Protestants: if you don't like the "Mary / Catholic stuff"; just omit the second stanza in your reading. That will eliminate, I believe, any theological objection you may have, and the poem still works okay without it (as a five-stanza piece); but you'll be missing a crucial biblical and theological aspect of the Incarnation (including the Virgin Birth).

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From all eternity, age to age; since the "beginning," I AM;
With My Father I created the universe: all things that are.
We decreed to save mankind by sacrifice of "God's Lamb";
Foretold in Isaiah 53: Messiah scorned, slain, and scarred.

My mother gave I the grace to be immaculate, without sin;
Fit vessel for God incarnate: ark of the new covenant pure.
Gabriel hailed New Eve "full of grace": redemption to begin;
Virgin with child by the Holy Spirit; man's salvation now sure.

In fullness of time I came down from glorious heaven above;
Clothed with human flesh: a baby-king (!) of Israel from birth.
Lying in a cave; a manger, in the world I had made and loved,
I was worshiped by shepherds and wise men filled with mirth.

Though seeing through infant eyes: helpless, innocent, meek;
I knew all things, possessed God's wisdom even in that hour.
As a baby, though King and Messiah, I cried and didn't speak;
But I sustained the entire universe by the Word of My power.

Even animals at My birth sensed the wonder prophesied of old;
Mary and Joseph were filled with thankful happiness and joy.
The three kings gave Me gifts: frankincense, myrrh, and gold;
Shepherds adored, fell before God: now present as a baby boy.

Mary held Me close and rejoiced, under the star's shiny beam;
I was dependent on her as a son, though I was God all the while.
I contemplated the reason I was born, and how I would redeem.
But now all was contentment and peace, so I rested and smiled.

Written on 12 December 2009.


Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,19:34-37) [Holy Matrimony: the Fathers and the Bible / Calvin's Groundless Opposition to Celibacy]


See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

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Book IV




34. Marriage not a sacrament.

The last of all is marriage, which, while all admit it to be an institution of God, no man ever saw to be a sacrament, until the time of Gregory.

This is untrue. St. Augustine (as I noted previously) referred to it as a sacrament:

Undoubtedly the substance of the sacrament is of this bond, so that when man and woman have been joined in marriage they must continue inseparably as long as they live, nor is it allowed for one spouse to be separated from the other except for cause of fornication. For this is preserved in the case of Christ and the Church, so that, as a living one with a living one, there is no divorce, no separation forever.

(Marriage and Concupiscence 1:10:11 [A.D. 419] )

In marriage, however, let the blessings of marriage be loved: offspring, fidelity, and the sacramental bond. Offspring, not so much because it may be born, but because it can be reborn; for it is born to punishment unless it be reborn to life. Fidelity, but not such as even the unbelievers have among themselves, ardent as they are for the flesh. . . . The sacramental bond, which they lose neither through separation nor through adultery, this the spouses should guard chastely and harmoniously.

(Ibid., 1:17:19)

So did St. Ambrose:

Scarcely less clear is the testimony of St. Ambrose. In his letter to Siricius (Ep. xlii, 3, in P.L., XVI, 1124), he states: "We also do not deny that marriage was sanctified by Christ"; and to Vigilius he writes (Ep. xix, 7, in P.L., XVI, 984): "Since the contracting of marriage must be sanctified by the veiling and the blessing of the priest, how can there be any mention of a marriage, when unity of faith is wanting?" Of what kind this sanctification is, the saint tells us clearly in his work "De Abraham" (I, vii, in P.L., XIV, 443): "We know that God is the Head and Protector, who does not permit that another's marriage-bed be defiled; and further that one guilty of such a crime sins against God, whose command he contravenes and whose bond of grace he loosens. Therefore, since he has sinned against God, he now loses his participation in the heavenly sacrament." According to Ambrose, therefore, Christian marriage is a heavenly sacrament, which binds one with God by the bonds of grace until these bonds are sundered by subsequent sin that is, it is a sacrament in the strict and complete sense of the word. The value of this testimony might be weakened only by supposing that Ambrose, in referring to the "participation in the heavenly sacrament" which he declares forfeited by adulterers, was really thinking of Holy Communion. But of the latter there is in the present instance not the slightest question; consequently, he must here mean the loss of all share in the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage.

(The Catholic Encyclopedia: "Sacrament of Marriage")

So did Pope Innocent I (d. 417):

This production of grace through marriage, and therefore its character as a perfect sacrament, was emphasized also by Innocent I in his letter to Probus (Ep. ix, in P.L., XX, 602). He declares a second marriage during the lifetime of the first partner invalid, and adds: "Supported by the Catholic Faith, we declare that the true marriage is that which is originally founded on Divine grace."


So did Tertullian (c. 160 - c. 225):

As early as the second century we have the valuable testimony of Tertullian. While still a Catholic, he writes ("Ad Uxorem"): "If therefore such a marriage is pleasing to God, wherefore should it not turn out happily, so that it will not be troubled by afflictions and needs and obstacles and contaminations, since it enjoys the protection of the Divine grace?" But if Divine grace and its protection are, as Tertullian asserts, given with marriage, we have therein the distinctive moment which constitutes a religious action (already known for other reasons as a sign of Divine grace) an efficacious sign of grace, that is, a true Sacrament of the New Dispensation. It is only on this hypothesis that we can rightly understand another passage from the same work of Tertullian (II, ix, in P.L., I, 1302): "How can we describe the happiness of those marriages which the Church ratifies, the sacrifice strengthens, the blessing seals, the angels publish, the Heavenly Father propitiously beholds?"


And would it ever have occurred to the mind of any sober man?

Apparently, Augustine and Ambrose and other prominent early Christian figures were quite the irrational drunks . . . I find it virtually self-evident to believe that marriage brings grace to the couple and helps them insofar as marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church.

It is a good and holy ordinance of God.

Then why wrangle over whether it is a sacrament? Baptists even call the Eucharist and baptism ordinances. Just because Protestants can't agree amongst themselves what a sacrament is and what it confers, doesn't mean that we all must be uncertain. This is why God ordained and set up His Church: to be our Guide.

And agriculture, architecture, shoemaking, and shaving, are lawful ordinances of God; but they are not sacraments. For in a sacrament, the thing required is not only that it be a work of God, but that it be an external ceremony appointed by God to confirm a promise. That there is nothing of the kind in marriage, even children can judge.

Is there not a marriage ceremony?

But it is a sign, they say, of a sacred thing, that is, of the spiritual union of Christ with the Church. If by the term sign they understand a symbol set before us by God to assure us of our faith, they wander widely from the mark. If they mean merely a sign because it has been employed as a similitude, I will show how acutely they reason. Paul says, “One star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead” (
1 Cor. 15:41, 42). Here is one sacrament. Christ says, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard-seed” (Mt. 13:31). Here is another sacrament. Again, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven” (Mt. 13:33). Here is a third sacrament. Isaiah says, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd” (Isaiah 40:11). Here is a fourth sacrament. In another passage he says, “The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man” (Isaiah 42:13). Here is a fifth sacrament. And where will be the end or limit? Everything in this way will be a sacrament.

No; only those seven things that the Church, under her divinely-protected mandate, determines to be so. It is not for Calvin to decide these things, but for the Church. But there is a more profound analogy, with far more realism, in marriage, than in these other instances, as will be shown below, from Holy Scripture.

All the parables and similitudes in Scripture will be so many sacraments. Nay, even theft will be a sacrament, seeing it is written, “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). Who can tolerate the ignorant garrulity of these sophists?

Who can tolerate the revolutionary anti-traditional attitude of Calvin?

I admit, indeed, that whenever we see a vine, the best thing is to call to mind what our Saviour says, “I am the true vine, and my father is the husbandman.” “ I am the vine, ye are the branches” (John 15:1, 5). And whenever we meet a shepherd with his flock, it is good also to remember, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14). But any man who would class such similitudes with sacraments should be sent to bedlam.

Indeed, but that is neither here nor there. It is merely a failed reductio ad absurdum. Matrimony, like most of the other sacraments, had a great deal of development. The Catholic Encyclopedia ("Sacrament of Marriage") explains this:

With regard to the several religious rites designated as "Sacraments of the New Law", there was always in the Church a profound conviction that they conferred interior Divine grace. But the grouping of them into one and the same category was left for a later period, when the dogmas of faith in general began to be scientifically examined and systematically arranged. Furthermore, that the seven sacraments should be grouped in one category was by no means self-evident. For, though it was accepted that each of these rites conferred interior grace, yet, in contrast to their common invisible effect, the difference in external ceremony and even in the immediate purpose of the production of grace was so great that, for a long time, it hindered a uniform classification. Thus, there is a radical difference between the external form under which baptism, confirmation, and orders, on the one hand are administered, and, on the other hand, those that characterize penance and marriage. For while marriage is in the nature of a contract, and penance in the nature of a judicial process, the three first-mentioned take the form of a religious consecration of the recipients.

In the proof of Apostolicity of the doctrine that marriage is a sacrament of the New Law, it will suffice to show that the Church has in fact always taught concerning marriage what belongs to the essence of a sacrament. The name sacrament cannot be cited as satisfactory evidence, since it did not acquire until a late period the exclusively technical meaning it has today; both in pre-Christian times and in the first centuries of the Christian Era it had a much broader and more indefinite signification. . . .

The love of Christian spouses for each other should be modelled on the love between Christ and the Church, because Christian marriage, as a copy and token of the union of Christ with the Church, is a great mystery or sacrament. It would not be a solemn, mysterious symbol of the union of Christ with the Church, which takes concrete form in the individual members of the Church, unless it efficaciously represented this union, i.e. not merely by signifying the supernatural life-union of Christ with the Church, but also by causing that union to be realized in the individual members; or, in other words, by conferring the supernatural life of grace. . . .

In fact, it would be entirely out of keeping with the economy of the New Testament if we possessed a sign of grace and salvation instituted by God which was only an empty sign, and not an efficacious one. Elsewhere (Galatians 4:9), St. Paul emphasizes in a most significant fashion the difference between the Old and the New Testament, when he calls the religious rites of the former "weak and needy elements" which could not of themselves confer true sanctity, the effect of true justice and sanctity being reserved for the New Testament and its religious rites. If, therefore, he terms Christian marriage, as a religious act, a great sacrament, he means not to reduce it to the low plane of the Old Testament rites, to the plane of a "weak and needy element", but rather to show its importance as a sign of the life of grace, and, like the other sacraments, an efficacious sign. St. Paul, then, does not speak of marriage as a true sacrament in explicit and immediately apparent fashion, but only in such wise that the doctrine must be deduced from his words. . . .

Weightier, if anything, than the testimony of the Fathers as to the sacramental character of Christian marriage is that of the liturgical books and sacramentaries of the different Churches, Eastern and Western, recording the liturgical prayers and rites handed down from the very earliest times. These, it is true, differ in many unimportant details, but their essential features must be traced back to Apostolic ordinances. In all these rituals and liturgical collections, marriage, contracted before the priest during the celebration of Mass, is accompanied by ceremonies and prayers similar to those used in connection with the other sacraments; in fact several of these rituals expressly call marriage a sacrament, and, because it is a "sacrament of the living", require contrition for sin and the reception of the Sacrament of Penance before marriage is contracted (cf. Martène, "De antiquis ecclesiæ ritibus", I, ix). But the venerable age, in fact the apostolicity, of the ecclesiastical tradition concerning marriage is still more clearly revealed by the circumstance that the rituals or liturgical books of the Oriental Churches and sects, even of those that separated from the Catholic Church in the first centuries, treat the contracting of marriage as a sacrament, and surround it with significant and impressive ceremonies and prayers. The Nestorians, Monophysites, Copts, Jacobites etc., all agree in this point (cf. J.S. Assemani, "Bibliotheca orientalis", III, i, 356; ii, 319 sqq.; Schelstrate, "Acta oriental. eccl.", I, 150 sqq.; Denzinger, "Ritus orientalium", I, 150 sqq.; II, 364 sqq.). The numerous prayers which are used throughout the ceremony refer to a special grace which is to be granted to the newly-married persons, and occasional commentaries show that this grace was regarded as sacramental. Thus, the Nestorian patriarch, Timotheus II, in his work "De septem causis sacramentorum" mentioned in Assemani (III, i, 579), deals with marriage among the other sacraments, and enumerates several religious ceremonies without which marriage is invalid. Evidently, therefore, he includes marriage among the sacraments, and considers the grace resulting from it a sacramental grace.

35. Nothing in Scripture to countenance the idea that marriage is a sacrament.

They adduce the words of Paul, by which they say that the name of a sacrament is given to marriage, “He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:28, 32).

How this has relevance to sacramentality has been explained above, and will to a greater extent below, as we proceed.

To treat Scripture thus is to confound heaven and earth. Paul, in order to show husbands how they ought to love their wives, sets Christ before them as an example. As he shed his bowels of affection for the Church, which he has espoused to himself, so he would have every one to feel affected toward his wife. Then he adds, “He that loveth his wife loveth himself,” “even as the Lord the Church.” Moreover, to show how Christ loved the Church as himself, nay, how he made himself one with his spouse the Church, he applies to her what Moses relates that Adam said of himself. For after Eve was brought into his presence, knowing that she had been formed out of his side, he exclaimed, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). That all this was spiritually fulfilled in Christ, and in us, Paul declares, when he says, that we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, and so one flesh with him. At length he breaks out into the exclamation, “This is a great mystery;”

The Latin word for "mystery" is sacramentum. So Paul makes a reference to this here, though no one argues that it was in as formulated a sense as the later developed doctrine exhibited.

and lest any one should be misled by the ambiguity, he says, that he is not speaking of the connection between husband and wife, but of the spiritual marriage of Christ and the Church. And truly it is a great mystery that Christ allowed a rib to be taken from himself, of which we might be formed; that is, that when he was strong, he was pleased to become weak, that we might be strengthened by his strength, and should no longer live ourselves, but he live in us (Gal. 2:20).

Certainly Calvin would not deny that salvation itself is conferred as a result of grace (for that is sola gratia). Scripture tells us that people can sometimes be saved as a direct result of their spouse:

1 Peter 3:1-2 Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, [2] when they see your reverent and chaste behavior.

The Greek word for "won" is kerdaino (Strong's word #2770). It can and does have implications for the salvation of others, as in its use in the following passage:

1 Corinthians 9:19-22 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. [20] To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law -- though not being myself under the law -- that I might win those under the law. [21] To those outside the law I became as one outside the law -- not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ -- that I might win those outside the law. [22] To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

If even grace unto salvation is obtained within marriage, then what objection could there be to marriage as a sacrament, which is precisely a means to obtain grace? Likewise, St. Paul stated that women could be saved by bearing children (which can only properly occur in marriage):

1 Timothy 2:15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Both of these passages suggest that grace is imparted through marriage itself, which is the essence of a sacrament. Even if one partner is an unbeliever, Paul says that they are "consecrated" by the believing partner; indeed, that may even be "saved" in this fashion:

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is they are holy. [KJV: "sanctified"]

1 Corinthians 7:16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

"Consecrated" in 1 Corinthians 7:14 is hagiazo (Strong's word #37); often translated as "sanctify" or "sanctified" -- as in the KJV. This comes, of course, ultimately from God, but the wife or husband can be a vessel for that sanctification: and that is grace, and it is sacramental. Here are some other uses of hagiazo in Scripture:

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.

Acts 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Acts 26:18 . . . those who are sanctified by faith in me.

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus . . .

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 5:24-26 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. [25] Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

[Thus, the same word used by Paul -- hagiazo -- to refer to Jesus sanctifying the Church, in the context of a marriage and Church and Christ analogy, is used by him in reference to a husband or wife with regard to the sanctification or consecration of an unbelieving spouse. This shows the realism of the comparison that goes beyond just any biblical analogy: as Calvin had mocked above, using the example of "vines," etc. The same profound realism is exhibited in 5:29-30: "For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body." ]

1 Thessalonians 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly . . .

Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Hebrews 13:12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.

36. Origin of the notion that marriage is a sacrament.

The thing which misled them was the term sacrament. But, was it right that the whole Church should be punished for the ignorance of these men? Paul called it a mystery. When the Latin interpreter might have abandoned this mode of expression as uncommon to Latin ears, or converted it into “secret,” he preferred calling it sacramentum, but in no other sense than the Greek term μυστηπιον was used by Paul. Let them go now and clamour against skill in languages, their ignorance of which leads them most shamefully astray in a matter easy and obvious to every one. But why do they so strongly urge the term sacrament in this one passage, and in others pass it by with neglect? For both in the First Epistle to Timothy (1 Tim. 3:9, 16), and also in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is used by the Vulgate interpreter, and in every instance, for mystery.

As I stated above, the Catholic Church does not claim much for Paul's mere use of "mystery" (Gk. mysterion / Lat., sacramentum). It is the way in which Paul and Peter described marriage as a means of sanctification and even salvation (thus of grace) -- as just shown above -- that is the far stronger scriptural argument than this one term, which can have various meanings. Thus, Calvin has concentrated on the lesser argument and ignored all the other biblical indications. He shows himself yet again relatively shallow in his biblical understanding.

Let us, however, pardon them this lapsus, though liars ought to have good memories.

How gracious of him., And we shall pardon him for his biblical illiteracy, or whatever it is that causes him to ignore wholesale, large portions of relevant Scripture: germane to any given topic. We have seen examples of this time and again, throughout this critique of The Institutes.

Marriage being thus recommended by the title of a sacrament, can it be anything but vertiginous levity afterwards to call it uncleanness, and pollution, and carnal defilement?

When, pray tell, do Catholics ever call sacramental marriage that?

How absurd is it to debar priests from a sacrament! If they say that they debar not from a sacrament but from carnal connection, they will not thus escape me. They say that this connection is part of the sacrament, and thereby figures the union which we have with Christ in conformity of nature, inasmuch as it is by this connection that husband and wife become one flesh; although some have here found two sacraments, the one of God and the soul, in bridegroom and bride, another of Christ and the Church, in husband and wife. Be this as it may, this connection is a sacrament from which no Christian can lawfully be debarred, unless, indeed, the sacraments of Christians accord so ill that they cannot stand together.

How is something (celibacy) absurd, if it is expressly sanctioned by Jesus and Paul?:

Matthew 19:10-12 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." [11] But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. [12] For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."

1 Corinthians 7:8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Every one should remain in the state in which he was called.

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brethren, in whatever state each was called, there let him remain with God.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; [33] but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, [34] and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. [35] I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. Calvin's beef is not with Catholics, but with Jesus and Paul. So why isn't he honest enough to frame it in those terms? He disagrees with the express sanction of the Bible for celibacy, if one is called to it.

1 Corinthians 7:38 So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

There is also another absurdity in these dogmas. They affirm that in a sacrament the gift of the Holy Spirit is conferred; this connection they hold to be a sacrament, and yet they deny that in it the Holy Spirit is ever present.

I have no idea what he is talking about here, so I can't offer any reply.

37. Practical abuses from this erroneous idea of marriage. Conclusion.

And, that they might not delude the Church in this matter merely, what a long series of errors, lies, frauds, and iniquities have they appended to one error?

As usual . . . what would Catholics be without all the lies and subterfuges we have willingly perpetrated on millions?

So that you may say they sought nothing but a hiding-place for abominations when they converted marriage into a sacrament.

What other possible rationale could we conceivable have?

When once they obtained this, they appropriated to themselves the cognisance of conjugal causes: as the thing was spiritual, it was not to be intermeddled with by profane judges.

What we see today is clearly a great improvement over the late medieval situation: free divorce (freely granted by the great majority of Protestant churches and even Orthodoxy) and rampant remarriages, and the broken homes and lives that go along with that. But Calvin must argue against sacramental, lifelong, indissoluble marriage, as if that were a horrendous thing.

Then they enacted laws by which they confirmed their tyranny,—laws partly impious toward God, partly fraught with injustice toward men; such as, that marriages contracted between minors, without the consent of their parents, should be valid; that no lawful marriages can be contracted between relations within the seventh degree, and that such marriages, if contracted, should be dissolved.

Annulment has scriptural warrant (as does the prohibition of divorce), and is even present in the civil laws of most countries.

Moreover, they frame degrees of kindred contrary to the laws of all nations, and even the polity of Moses, and enact that a husband who has repudiated an adulteress may not marry again—

It was virtually unanimous in the fathers and early Church, that marriage was indissoluble and remarriage thus impermissible.

that spiritual kindred cannot be joined in marriage—that marriage cannot be celebrated from Septuagesimo to the Octaves of Easter, three weeks before the nativity of John, nor from Advent to Epiphany, and innumerable others, which it were too tedious to mention.

The Church has the jurisdiction to preside over the application of sacraments.

We must now get out of their mire, in which our discourse has stuck longer than our inclination.

If anything has accurately described my own eight-month experience in giving answer to Calvin, it is this line: ironically the second-to-last that I have to deal with.

Methinks, however, that much has been gained if I have, in some measure, deprived these asses of their lion’s skin.

And this is the perfect line with which to end my critique. My thoughts exactly! I thank Calvin for all the food for thought: the stimulation to produce further biblical and patristic arguments (I was greatly blessed by discovering some heretofore unthought-of ones even in this very installment), and the opportunity to allow readers of all stripes to compare Catholicism and Calvinism and decide for themselves which is more biblical, in accordance with legitimate apostolic tradition and the Church fathers, the doctors of the Church, and in the final analysis more worthy of allegiance.

Happy 500th birthday to John Calvin. I hope and pray for his salvation, and that of his followers. I don't deny his (or his followers') sincerity or good intentions or desire to serve God, though I obviously and repeatedly question his reasoning, methods, and judgments. Thanks to all for reading.

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[Note: Institutes, Book IV, chapter 20 is devoted to the question of civil government. As that is not a directly theological issue, I have decided to refrain from a critique; a Catholic might actually agree with much that Calvin says there, anyway. In that case, I am done with my critique of Book IV of the Institutes and this entire project. Now I shall put together an index of my replies and an abridged book, conveniently organizing answers by topic.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,19:22-33) [Holy Orders: Exorcism / Tonsure / Anti-Miracles / Disparaging of the OT and the Law]

See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

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Book IV




22. Of ecclesiastical orders. Two points for discussion. Absurdities here introduced. Whether ecclesiastical order is a sacrament. Papists not agreed as to holy orders.

The fourth place in their catalogue is held by the sacrament of Orders, one so prolific, as to beget of itself seven lesser sacraments. It is very ridiculous that, after affirming that there are seven sacraments, when they begin to count, they make out thirteen. It cannot be alleged that they are one sacrament, because they all tend to one priesthood, and are a kind of steps to the same thing. For while it is certain that the ceremonies in each are different, and they themselves say that the graces are different, no man can doubt that if their dogmas are admitted, they ought to be called seven sacraments. And why debate it as a doubtful matter, when they themselves plainly and distinctly declare that they are seven?

Doubtless, Calvin has again missed crucial distinctions made by his Catholic counterparts. It's a constant in his analysis.

First, then, we shall glance at them in passing, and show to how many absurdities they introduce us when they would recommend their orders to us as sacraments; and, secondly, we shall see whether the ceremony which churches use in ordaining ministers ought at all to be called a sacrament. They make seven ecclesiastical orders, or degrees, which they distinguish by the title of a sacrament. These are Doorkeepers, Readers, Exorcists, Acolytes, Subdeacons, Deacons, and Priests. And they say that they are seven, because of the seven kinds of graces of the Holy Spirit with which those who are promoted to them ought to be endued.

God gives gifts commensurate with the offices He calls us to (Rom 11:29; 1 Cor 7:24; 12:4-11).

This grace is increased and more liberally accumulated on promotion. The mere number has been consecrated by a perversion of Scripture, because they think they read in Isaiah that there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, whereas truly not more than six are mentioned by Isaiah, who, however, meant not to include all in that passage. For, in other passages are mentioned the spirit of life, of sanctification, of the adoption of sons, as well as there, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. Although others who are more acute make not seven orders, but nine, in imitation, as they say, of the Church triumphant. But among these, also, there is a contest; because some insist that the clerical tonsure is the first order of all, and the episcopate the last; while others, excluding the tonsure, class the office of archbishop among the orders. Isiodorus distinguishes differently, for he makes Psalmists and Readers different. To the former, he gives the charge of chanting; to the latter, that of reading the Scriptures for the instruction of the common people. And this distinction is observed by the canons. In this great variety, what would they have us to follow or to avoid? Shall we say that there are seven orders? So the master of the school teaches, but the most illuminated doctors determine otherwise. On the other hand, they are at variance among themselves. Besides, the most sacred canons call us in a different direction. Such, indeed, is the concord of men when they discuss divine things apart from the word of God.

And Protestantism does better when it claims to be going by Scripture Alone and splits into many hundreds, even thousands, of competing denominations? There is an inherent absurdity and comic irony in a Protestant discussing (let alone criticizing) any disputes whatever within other Christian communions. I'll wait for Calvin's actual arguments (if he has any in this regard).

23. Insult to Christ in attempting to make him their colleague.

But the crowning folly of all is, that in each of these they make Christ their colleague. First, they say he performed the office of Doorkeeper when, with a whip of small cords, he drove the buyers and sellers from the temple. He intimates that he is a Doorkeeper when he says, “I am the door.” He assumed the office of Reader, when he read Isaiah in the synagogue. He performed the office of Exorcist when, touching the tongue and ears of the deaf and dumb man with spittle, he restored his hearing. He declared that he was an Acolyte by the words, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness.” He performed the office of Subdeacon, when, girding himself with a towel, he washed the feet of his disciples. He acted the part of a Deacon, when he distributed his body and blood in the Supper. He performed the part of a Priest, when, on the cross, he offered himself in sacrifice to the Father. As these things cannot be heard without laughter, I wonder how they could have been written without laughter, if, indeed, they were men who wrote them.

What is so funny about all that, pray tell?

But their most noteable subtlety is that in which they speculate on the name of Acolyte, calling him Ceroferarius—a magical term, I presume, one certainly unknown to all nations and tongues; ἀκόλουθος, in Greek, meaning simply attendant. Were I to stop and seriously refute these things, I might myself justly be laughed at, so frivolous are they and ludicrous.

No more so than Calvin's non-reply.

24. The greater part of these orders empty names implying no certain office. Popish exorcists.

Still, lest they should be able to impose on silly women, their vanity must be exposed in passing. With great pomp and solemnity they elect their readers, psalmists, doorkeepers, acolytes, to perform those services which they give in charge, either to boys, or at least to those whom they call laics. Who, for the most part, lights the tapers, who pours wine and water from the pitcher, but a boy or some mean person among laics, who gains his bread by so doing? Do not the same persons chant? Do they not open and shut the doors of Churches? Who ever saw, in their churches, either an acolyte or doorkeeper performing his office? Nay, when he who as a boy performed the office of acolyte, is admitted to the order of acolyte, he ceases to be the very thing he begins to be called, so that they seem professedly to wish to cast away the office when they assume the title. See why they hold it necessary to be consecrated by sacraments, and to receive the Holy Spirit! It is just to do nothing. If they pretend that this is the defect of the times, because they neglect and abandon their offices, let them, at the same time, confess that there is not in the Church, in the present day, any use or benefit of these sacred orders which they wondrously extol, and that their whole Church is full of anathema, since the tapers and flagons, which none are worthy to touch but those who have been consecrated acolytes, she allows to be handled by boys and profane persons; since her chants, which ought to be heard only from consecrated lips, she delegates to children.

There is scarcely any argument here, either. Calvin seems to sneer at children in a way that our Lord certainly did not:

Matthew 18:3 Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19:13-14 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; [14] but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."

Luke 18:17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

And to what end, pray, do they consecrate exorcists? I hear that the Jews had their exorcists, but I see they were so called from the exorcisms which they practised (Acts 19:13). Who ever heard of those fictitious exorcists having given one specimen of their profession? It is pretended that power has been given them to lay their hands on energumens, catechumens, and demoniacs, but they cannot persuade demons that they are endued with such power, not only because demons do not submit to their orders, but even command themselves. Scarcely will you find one in ten who is not possessed by a wicked spirit. All, then, which they babble about their paltry orders is a compound of ignorant and stupid falsehoods.

There are plenty of biblical examples of exorcisms in the casting out of demons:

Matthew 4:24 . . . they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.

Matthew 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick.

Matthew 10:1, 8 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. . . . Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. . . .

Matthew 12:22 Then a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw.

Mark 1:34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; . . .

Luke 8:2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Mag'dalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,

Luke 9:42 While he was coming, the demon tore him and convulsed him. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

Acts 5:16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

Acts 8:7 For unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed, crying with a loud voice; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.

According to Calvin, apparently we should all ignore these kinds of things as of no import or relevance. We have no need any longer to cast out a demon, like Jesus and the disciples did. That was only a valid concern in the first century, not the 21st, or 16th. Again, we see a surprising skepticism and almost "Enlightenment"-like excessive rationalism afoot in Calvin's thinking.

Of the ancient acolytes, doorkeepers, and readers, we have spoken when explaining the government of the Church. All that we here proposed was to combat that novel invention of a sevenfold sacrament in ecclesiastical orders of which we nowhere read except among silly raving Sorbonnists and Canonists.

More of the same sneering non-argument . . .

25. Absurdity of the tonsure.

Let us now attend to the ceremonies which they employ. And first, all whom they enroll among their militia they initiate into the clerical status by a common symbol. They shave them on the top of the head, that the crown may denote regal honour, because clergy ought to be kings in governing themselves and others. Peter thus speaks of them: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9). But it was sacrilege in them to arrogate to themselves alone what is given to the whole Church, and proudly to glory in a title of which they had robbed the faithful. Peter addresses the whole Church: these men wrest it to a few shaven crowns, as if it had been said to them alone, Be ye holy: as if they alone had been purchased by the blood of Christ: as if they alone had been made by Christ kings and priests unto God.

The priesthood is a separate office, just as it was in the Old Covenant (1 Peter 2;9 cites the Old Testament). The disciples were the original models for priests. Biblical indications of this are myriad. Here are some of the more important ones:

1) Special appointment by Jesus of those wholly devoted to God and a spiritual calling in ministry, with no turning back: Matthew 6:24; John 15:15-16; Luke 9:62.

2) A call to even leave one's families and possessions: Matthew 4:22; 19:27; Luke 14:26.

3) Acceptance of extraordinary hardships and self-denial: Matthew 8:19-20; 10:38.

4) Celibacy: Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:7-9.

5) Presiding over the Mass: Luke 22:19.

6) Service to the Church: 1 Corinthians 3:5; 9:19; 2 Corinthians 4:5.

7) Dispensers of sacraments: 1 Corinthians 4:1; James 5:14, Matthew 28:19.

8) Spiritual fathers: 1 Corinthians 4:15; cf. Acts 7:2.

Then they assign other reasons (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 24). The top of the head is bared, that their mind may be shown to be free, with unveiled face, to behold the glory of God; or that they may be taught to cut off the vices of the eye and the lip. Or the shaving of the head is the laying aside of temporal things, while the circumference of the crown is the remnants of good which are retained for support. Everything is in figure, because forsooth, the veil of the temple is not yet rent.

Institutions are free to create the rules that they see fit to create. Calvin's Geneva was no stranger to stringent rules and regulations. This is the very last thing Calvin should be complaining or lecturing anyone else about.

Accordingly, persuaded that they have excellently performed their part because they have figured such things by their crown, they perform none of them in reality. How long will they delude us with such masks and impostures? The clergy, by shaving off some hair, intimate (Sent. loco cit.) that they have cast away abundance of temporal good—that they contemplate the glory of God—that they have mortified concupiscence of the ear and the eye: but no class of men is more rapacious, more stupid, more libidinous. Why do they not rather exhibit true sanctity, than give a hypocritical semblance of it in false and lying signs?

Where there was personal moral failure, it is right to pint out the hypocrisy. Whether one in 10,000 or so actually was a pious, good man, as Calvin thinks, is another question entirely.

26. The Judaizing nature of the tonsure. Why Paul shaved his head in consequence of a vow.

Moreover, when they say that the clerical crown has its origin and nature from the Nazarenes, what else do they say than that their mysteries are derived from Jewish ceremonies, or rather are mere Judaism?

How does development from prior Jewish observances equate to "mere Judaism"? This is absurd reasoning. Jesus said, "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them" (Matthew 5:17) and "till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18); yet Calvin objects to similarity of custom to the Nazarenes as "mere Judaism" as if this is 1) logical, or 2) indicative in the slightest degree of the high respect that the early apostles had for Judaism? Jesus even advised His followers to follow the instructions of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:2-3), and He did so independently of their own moral consistency ("they preach, but do not practice").

When they add that Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul himself, after they had taken a vow, shaved their head that they might be purified, they betray their gross ignorance. For we nowhere read this of Priscilla, while, with regard to Aquila, it is uncertain, since that tonsure may refer equally well to Paul as to Aquila (Acts 18:18).

The passage reads: "At Cen'chre-ae he cut his hair, for he had a vow." This is supposedly a profound argument against the tonsure? Why does Calvin wish to even argue against it? I submit that it is simply because he has to oppose Catholics at every turn: even in the most obvious areas where there is no solid objection to be made. If it was argued that Priscilla and Aquila also shaved their heads, then it was a deduction based on the association with Paul in Acts 18:18. But the fact remains that Paul did do so, and this is an adequate example of something not unlike the tonsure. Why, then, does Calvin not give up the argument? Why is it so supremely important to him to disagree with almost every jot and tittle of Catholicism?

But not to leave them in possession of what they ask—viz. that they have an example in Paul, it is to be observed, to the more simple, that Paul never shaved his head for any sanctification, but only in subservience to the weakness of brethren.

Whatever spin Calvin may wish to put on it, he still did it, and it stands as an example that could be emulated. After all, Paul said that we should imitate him (2 Thess 3:7, 9).

Vows of this kind I am accustomed to call vows of charity, not of piety; in other words, vows not undertaken for divine worship, but only in deference to the infirmity of the weak, as he himself says, that to the Jews he became a Jew (1 Cor. 9:20). This, therefore, he did, and that once and for a short time, that he might accommodate himself for a little to the Jews. When these men would, for no end, imitate the purifications of the Nazarenes (Num. 6:18), what else do they than set up a new, while they improperly affect to rival the ancient Judaism?

Self-purification is a common theme in the New Testament as well, seen especially in Paul. He writes, for example, shortly after Calvin's cited passage above:

1 Corinthians 9: 23-27 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. [24] Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. [25] Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. [26] Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; [27] but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

If St. Paul is a prominent New Covenant figure, and he urges us to imitate him, and he engages in all sorts of penitential activities, then none of this equates to merely "ancient Judaism."

In the same spirit the Decretal Epistle was composed, which enjoins the clergy, after the apostle, not to nourish their hair, but to shave it all round (Cap. Prohibitur, Dist. 24); as if the apostle, in showing what is comely for all men, had been solicitous for the spherical tonsure of the clergy. Hence, let my readers consider what kind of force or dignity there can be in the subsequent mysteries, to which this is the introduction.

We consider that Calvin cares not a whit about biblical example. When confronted with it, he plays sophistical games, in order to act as if it has no relevance, when it clearly does, and is completely non-objectionable as a model for Catholics to emulate. But hair is a material thing, and as we have seen again and again, Calvin seems to always have a (rather odd) problem with matter having anything to do with spirituality: a bizarre attitude, in light of the incarnation and Jesus' crucifixion.

27. Origin of this clerical tonsure as given by Augustine. Absurd ceremonies in consecrating Doorkeepers, Readers, Exorcists, and Acolytes.

Whence the clerical tonsure had its origin, is abundantly clear from Augustine alone (De Opera. Monach. et Retract). While in that age none wore long hair but the effeminate, and those who affected an unmanly beauty and elegance, it was thought to be of bad example to allow the clergy to do so. They were therefore enjoined either to cut or shave their hair, that they might not have the appearance of effeminate indulgence. And so common was the practice, that some monks, to appear more sanctimonious than others by a notable difference in dress, let their locks hang loose. But when hair returned to use, and some nations, which had always worn long hair, as France, Germany, and England, embraced Christianity, it is probable that the clergy everywhere shaved the head, that they might not seem to affect ornament.

And what is possibly wrong with that, if it is what they decided, and what the Church deemed proper? Calvin's progeny are just as "legalistic" (if that is what he thinks this is). In our time (well, in the late 60s and 70s), it is well-known how many fundamentalist Christians opposed long hair. In fact, I once went into a fundamentalist Baptist bookstore in the early 80s, when I was a Protestant, promoting fliers for a cult-watching group I was involved in. Here we were opposing the errors of anti-trinitarians like Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, and the lady at the cash register said they couldn't place them out because the men pictured on the flier had beards. That was their legalism. It was (by appearances) more important to them than contending for the Holy Trinity. But an institution can have a dress code, including hair, without this necessarily equating to legalism. Schools have dress codes, the military requires short hair, etc.

At length, in a more corrupt age, when all ancient customs were either changed, or had degenerated into superstition, seeing no reason for the clerical tonsure (they had retained nothing but a foolish imitation), they betook themselves to mystery, and now superstitiously obtrude it upon us in support of their sacrament. The Doorkeepers, on consecration, receive the keys of the Church, by which it is understood that the custody of it is committed to them; the Readers receive the Holy Bible; the Exorcists, forms of exorcism which they use over the possessed and catechumens; the Acolytes, tapers and the flagon. Such are the ceremonies which, it would seem, possess so much secret virtue, that they cannot only be signs and badges, but even causes of invisible grace. For this, according to their definition, they demand, when they would have them to be classed among sacraments. But to despatch the matter in a few words, I say that it is absurd for schools and canons to make sacraments of those minor orders, since, even by the confession of those who do so, they were unknown to the primitive Church, and were devised many ages after.

Special consecrated offices were certainly known to the primitive church. To simply develop these later and have different secondary categorization is no corruption at all. True corruption has to be found in something like Calvin's enterprise. In this very chapter he is advocating the overthrow of five of the seven sacraments that had been in place for many hundreds of years before his time, and accepted by the likes even of St. Augustine (Calvin's favorite father, and supposedly one of "his own" -- which is not at all the case).

But sacraments as containing a divine promise ought not to be appointed, either by angels or men, but by God only, to whom alone it belongs to give the promise.

We have provided ample biblical support for all of our sacraments. Readers may wish to consult one or more of my papers:

The Biblical Evidence for Priests

The Visible, Hierarchical, Apostolic Church
28. Of the higher class of orders called Holy Orders. Insult offered to Christ when ministers are regarded as priests. Holy orders have nothing of the nature of a sacrament.

There remain the three orders which they call major. Of these, what they call the subdeaconate was transferred to this class, after the crowd of minor began to be prolific. But as they think they have authority for these from the word of God, they honour them specially with the name of Holy Orders. Let us see how they wrest the ordinances of God to their own ends. We begin with the order of presbyter or priest. To these two names they give one meaning, understanding by them, those to whom, as they say, it pertains to offer the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood on the altar, to frame prayers, and bless the gifts of God. Hence, at ordination, they receive the patena with the host, as symbols of the power conferred upon them of offering sacrifices to appease God, and their hands are anointed, this symbol being intended to teach that they have received the power of consecrating. But of the ceremonies afterwards. Of the thing itself, I say that it is so far from having, as they pretend, one particle of support from the word of God, that they could not more wickedly corrupt the order which he has appointed.

I have provided plenty of biblical indication for the Sacrifice of the Mass in previous installments. Even Paul referred to himself as a priest.

And first, it ought to be held as confessed (this we maintained when treating of the Papal Mass), that all are injurious to Christ who call themselves priests in the sense of offering expiatory victims. He was constituted and consecrated Priest by the Father, with an oath, after the order of Melchisedek, without end and without successor (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:6; 7:3). He once offered a victim of eternal expiation and reconciliation, and now also having entered the sanctuary of heaven, he intercedes for us. In him we all are priests, but to offer praise and thanksgiving, in fine, ourselves, and all that is ours, to God. It was peculiar to him alone to appease God and expiate sins by his oblation. When these men usurp it to themselves, what follows, but that they have an impious and sacrilegious priesthood? It is certainly wicked over much to dare to distinguish it with the title of sacrament.

All dealt with before . . .

In regard to the true office of presbyter, which was recommended to us by the lips of Christ, I willingly give it that place. For in it there is a ceremony which, first, is taken from the Scriptures; and, secondly, is declared by Paul to be not empty or superfluous, but to be a faithful symbol of spiritual grace (1 Tim. 4:14). My reason for not giving a place to the third is, because it is not ordinary or common to all believers, but is a special rite for a certain function. But while this honour is attributed to the Christian ministry, Popish priests may not plume themselves upon it. Christ ordered dispensers of his gospel and his sacred mysteries to be ordained, not sacrificers to be inaugurated, and his command was to preach the gospel and feed the flock, not to immolate victims. He promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, not to make expiation for sins, but duly to undertake and maintain the government of the Church (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; John 21:15).

So he recognizes the notion ordination itself, but rules out priests as ordained by his prior anti-biblical, anti-historical antipathy to the Sacrifice of the Mass. Therefore, I need not offer arguments in support of ordination, since it is not disputed, nor regarding the Mass, since I already have done so at length.

29. Absurd imitation of our Saviour in breathing on his apostles.

With the reality the ceremonies perfectly agree. When our Lord commissioned the apostles to preach the gospel, he breathed upon them (John 20:22). By this symbol he represented the gift of the Holy Spirit which he bestowed upon them. This breathing these worthy men have retained; and, as they were bringing the Holy Spirit from their throat, mutter over their priestlings, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Accordingly, they omit nothing which they do not preposterously mimic.

Why does such a thing have to be mocked in this fashion? Is it not praiseworthy to imitate our Lord, and with the same purpose He had in doing the thing that is imitated: to ordain men for special ministerial service to God?

I say not in the manner of players (who have art and meaning in their gestures), but like apes who imitate at random without selection.

A nice touch . . .

We observe, say they, the example of the Lord. But the Lord did many things which he did not intend to be examples to us. Our Lord said to his disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). He said also to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43). He said to the paralytic, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

Jesus certainly intended for these to be examples (there can be no possible argument on this point), since He said: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. . . ." (Matthew 10:8). Calvin is again decisively proven wrong by Scripture. The disciples and apostles did all these things. Peter raised the dead (Acts 9:36-41: Tabitha); so did Paul (Acts 20:7-12). They prayed for others to receive the Holy Spirit, and they did (Acts 2:38; 8:15-17; 19:6).

They healed many people (Mk 6:13; 16:20; Lk 9:6; Acts 4:7-10; 5:15-16; 8:7; 9:34; 19:12; 28:8-9), and cast out demons (Mk 6:13; 16:17; Lk 10:17; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 19:12), exactly as the Lord had commanded them to do, since Holy Scripture informs us that "he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity" (Matthew 10:1).

Jesus had also said to them, "I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you . . ." (Luke 10:19-20). And again, it is recorded that "he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal" (Luke 9:2). And yet again: "And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach
and have authority to cast out demons" (Mark 3:14-15).

In one of my papers I noted a book that documented many people raised from the dead from the early patristic period all the way up to Calvin's time and afterwards. These miracles were attested by St. Justin Martyr, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the historian Sozomen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Hilary of Poitiers, and St. Ambrose. St. Augustine recounted at least four such stories (one of them in City of God, Book XXII, chapter 8). St. Irenaeus casually assumed that these things still took place, and that it was folly for heretics to disbelieve it (Against Heresies, Book II, chapter 31, 2). They were far far believing (like Calvin, with no reason at all) that these miracles had ceased after the apostolic age.

St. Martin of Tours (316-397) was said to have raised three persons from the dead. Pope St. Gregory the Great tells the story of St. Benedict doing the same. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) is reported to have performed this miracle. Bernard himself testifies that his friend St. Malachy (1095-1148) had raised a woman from the dead. Others who were used by God to perform this extraordinary miracle are St. Patrick, St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), Blessed Margaret of Castello (1287-1320), St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Catherine of Sweden, St. Joan of Arc, St. Bernardine, St. Dominic, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Philip Neri, St. John Bosco, St. Martin de Porres, St. Vincent Ferrer, and St. Padre Pio.

But now Calvin wants to come and "veto" express instructions from our Lord Jesus and pretend as if they were only intended for a few generations only, or one century only; and delude himself that this cessation is somewhere taught in the Bible?

St. Paul specifically lists a gift of healing along with other offices (1 Cor 12:9, 28, 30). There is not the slightest hint that this office was intended to cease. It's right along with the others, that obviously were intended in perpetuity. James (5:16) assumes that healing would occur for all time, because the "prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects."

Why do they not say the same to all the dead and paralytic? He gave a specimen of his divine power when, in breathing on the apostles, he filled them with the gift of the Holy Spirit. If they attempt to do the same, they rival God, and do all but challenge him to the contest.

Obviously, raising the dead was not to be a frequent occurrence. On the other hand, Jesus did tell His disciples they would be able to do so, and Peter and Paul did it in recorded instances in Scripture. The fathers bear witness of the miracle continuing long after the apostles, and it has occurred all along. But no one is saying it should be a routine thing. Miracles are not for the purpose of "magic" or being puffed up with power, or to titillate those who hunger after signs; they are to demonstrate God's glory and power, in particular circumstances.

But Calvin appears to not understand these elementary biblical themes. He can only mock healing and trivialize it, as if it is ruled out if it isn't on demand. This is spiritual kindergarten and shocking in a man so familiar with the Bible; one who clearly prides himself on his knowledge. My eight-year-old daughter could have told anyone much of this, and Calvin can't figure it out?

But they are very far from producing the effect, and only mock Christ by that absurd gesture.

Why does he assume that there should be some huge effect in the rite of ordination? What does he demand to see: tongues of fire? Tongues of unknown languages" Levitation? In effect, he demands signs and wonders, precisely as Jesus warned that an "evil and adulterous generation" would do (Matt 16:1-4; cf. 12:38-39; Mk 8:11-12; Lk 11:29; Jn 4:48).

Such, indeed, is the effrontery of some, that they dare to assert that the Holy Spirit is conferred by them; but what truth there is in this, we learn from experience, which cries aloud that all who are consecrated priests, of horses become asses, and of fools, madmen.

So the exaggeration in service of the heresy, extreme lack of charity, and the illogical assumption that sin somehow disproves a doctrine, is the best that Calvin can muster up?

And yet it is not here that I am contending against them; I am only condemning the ceremony itself, which ought not to be drawn into a precedent, since it was used as the special symbol of a miracle, so far is it from furnishing them with an example for imitation.

I see nothing wrong with it whatever. Calvin doesn't like the whole idea, and so he lowers himself to mock even the minutest particulars associated with it.

30. Absurdity of the anointing employed.

But from whom, pray, did they receive their unction? They answer, that they received it from the sons of Aaron, from whom also their order derived its origin (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 14, cap. 8, et in Canon. Dist. 21, cap. 1). Thus they constantly choose to defend themselves by perverse examples, rather than confess that any of their rash practices is of their own devising.

In other words, Calvin disapproves, seems to have an ongoing animus against Everything Jewish (as seen in his frequent disparaging remarks about the Old Testament, as if it were scarcely even necessary or worthwhile to the Christian), and so has to act as if Catholics have no rationale whatever for anything they do, unless it agrees 100% with him. We either have none, or if we offer one, Calvin immediately knocks it down by one of his by now patented sophistical subterfuges and verbal, logical sleight-of-hand techniques. Whether he was aware that he does these things constantly, I know not, and don't care, in charity, to speculate. But the fact that he does them (unaware or not, deliberate or not) quite often is beyond all dispute.

Meanwhile, they observe not that in professing to be the successors of the sons of Aaron, they are injurious to the priesthood of Christ, which alone was adumbrated and typified by all ancient priesthoods.

More either/or non sequiturs and utterly unnecessary false dichotomies . . .

In him, therefore, they were all concluded and completed, in him they ceased, as we have repeatedly said, and as the Epistle to the Hebrews, unaided by any gloss, declares. But if they are so much delighted with Mosaic ceremonies,

Here is the anti-Jewish sentiment again. Jesus sure showed none of this. St. Paul showed respect to the Jewish high priest even at his kangaroo court trial. Both worshiped in the Temple and synagogues and observed feasts and rituals, etc.

why do they not hurry oxen, calves, and lambs, to their sacrifices?

Because we don't have "sacrifices" -- we have the one Sacrifice of Christ made present at Mass.

They have, indeed, a great part of the ancient tabernacle, and of the whole Jewish worship.

Egads!!! What a horrible thing! How dare Christians draw from the ancient heritage of Jewish spirituality! What an outrageous, unconscionable thing to do . . . Imagine having any sense of history and respecting what came before (qualities that are often absent in Calvin's pontifical and revolutionary ravings) . . .

The only thing wanted to their religion is, that they do not sacrifice oxen and calves. Who sees not that this practice of unction is much more pernicious than circumcision, especially when to it is added superstition and a Pharisaical opinion of the merit of the work?

Ah; let's now use the "criticize ten things at once" approach. How prevalent that is among the anti-Catholics of today: and again we see that it probably was first learned at the feet of Calvin himself (who received it from Luther). After a while, these unworthy rhetorical shortcomings are simply taken in like mother's milk, without thinking. It becomes a way of life in fighting the Great Beast and Harlot.

The Jews placed their confidence of justification in circumcision,

This is not true. The consensus today, more and more, in scholarly circles of all stripes (even two anti-Catholic apologists recently stated this back to me), is to hold that the Jews also believed in salvation by God's grace, through faith, with these various works as signs of obedience. Calvin's misconception has been passed down in historic Protestantism almost to the present day, when the best scholars are finally seeing the injustice of these cynical perceptions of the ancient Jewish faith.

these men look for spiritual gifts in unction.

These men look to Jesus, which is what the Mass is all about.

Therefore, in desiring to be rivals of the Levites, they become apostates from Christ, and discard themselves from the pastoral office.

Right. The ridiculous conclusion, based on nothing . . . Calvin shows himself to be a master of that, which is not saying much.

31. Imposition of hands. Absurdity of, in Papistical ordination.

It is, if you please, the sacred oil which impresses an indelible character. As if oil could not be washed away by sand and salt,

Which is completely beside the point . . . The baptismal water is gone in a few minutes too.

or if it sticks the closer, with soap. But that character is spiritual. What has oil to do with the soul?

The same thing that the incarnation and virgin birth and the cross and resurrection and ascension have to do with the soul. God uses matter. This seems to be the most inexplicable thing to Calvin, but to me his profound ignorance (and/or rejection) of the sacramental principle everywhere evident in the Bible is far more inexplicable.

Have they forgotten what they quote from Augustine, that if the word be withdrawn from the water, there will be nothing but water, but that it is owing to the word that it is a sacrament?

No. No one is separating the Word from the ritual (except Calvin, who is often guilty of the opposite error: all Word and no mystery or ceremony or ritual or miracle at all).

What word can they show in their oil? Is it because Moses was commanded to anoint the sons of Aaron? (Exod. 30:30).

I've already highlighted the scriptural uses of oil in past installments.

But he there receives command concerning the tunic, the ephod, the breastplate, the mitre, the crown of holiness with which Aaron was to be adorned; and concerning the tunics, belts, and mitres which his sons were to wear. He receives command about sacrificing the calf, burning its fat, about cutting and burning rams, about sanctifying ear-rings and vestments with the blood of one of the rams, and innumerable other observances. Having passed over all these, I wonder why the unction of oil alone pleases them.

I wonder why Calvin is so obsessed with running down oil, as if it were as superfluous to biblical thinking as, say, sulfuric acid.

If they delight in being sprinkled, why are they sprinkled with oil rather than with blood?

Because oil represented being "anointed" in Scripture. That is perfectly appropriate in ordination, just as it was for David and the other Kings.

They are attempting, forsooth, an ingenious device; they are trying, by a kind of patchwork, to make one religion out of Christianity, Judaism, and Paganism.

No one who proclaims Christ and His crucifixion and redemption can be accused of Judaism Proper; however, Christianity has drawn virtually all of its truths from that religion, and has merely developed them further, by accepting Jesus as Messiah and Lord. The pagan charge makes no sense here, but I take it that Calvin's huge animus against matter used in any spiritual ceremonies is equated in his mind to paganism. He doesn't seem to be able to process it any other way. But it doesn't follow.

Their unction, therefore, is without savour; it wants salt, that is, the word of God. There remains the laying on of hands, which, though I admit it to be a sacrament in true and legitimate ordination,

Calvin agrees with something! Stop the presses!

I do deny to have any such place in this fable, where they neither obey the command of Christ, nor look to the end to which the promise ought to lead us. If they would not have the sign denied them, they must adapt it to the reality to which it is dedicated.

The usual cynical, non sequitur Calvin conclusion . . .

32. Ordination of deacons. Absurd forms of Papists.

As to the order of the diaconate, I would raise no dispute, if the office which existed under the apostles, and a purer Church, were restored to its integrity. But what resemblance to it do we see in their fictitious deacons?

Of course. So, once again, he has no essential dispute, except that Catholics have (as always) supposedly corrupted a good, defensible thing beyond all recognition.

I speak not of the men, lest they should complain that I am unjustly judging their doctrine by the vices of those who profess it;

Which he constantly does in his rhetoric . . .

but I contend that those whom their doctrine declares to us, derive no countenance from those deacons whom the apostolic Church appointed. They say that it belongs to their deacons to assist the priests, and minister at all the things which are done in the sacraments, as in baptism, in chrism, the patena, and chalice, to bring the offerings and lay them on the altar, to prepare and dress the table of the Lord, to carry the cross, announce and read out the gospel and epistle to the people (Sent. Lib. 4 Dist. 24, cap. 8; Item, Cap. Perlectis, Dist. 25). Is there here one word about the true office of deacon?

What in the world is wrong with those things? Is it because not every jot and tittle is described in Scripture?

Let us now attend to the appointment. The bishop alone lays hands on the deacon who is ordained; he places the prayer-book and stole upon his left shoulder, that he may understand that he has received the easy yoke of the Lord, in order that he may subject to the fear of the Lord every thing pertaining to the left side: he gives him a text of the gospel, to remind him that he is its herald. What have these things to do with deacons?

What possible objection could one have to them?

But they act just as if one were to say he was ordaining apostles, when he was only appointing persons to kindle the incense, clean the images, sweep the churches, set traps for mice, and put out dogs. Who can allow this class of men to be called apostles, and to be compared with the very apostles of Christ? After this, let them not pretend that those whom they appoint to mere stage-play are deacons. Nay, they even declare, by the very name, what the nature of the office is. For they call them Levites, and wish to trace their nature and origin to the sons of Levi. As far as I am concerned, they are welcome, provided they do not afterwards deck themselves in borrowed feathers.

That's about as complimentary as Calvin ever gets. This chapter becomes increasingly ludicrous as it goes on.

33. Of sub-deacons.

What use is there in speaking of subdeacons?

Here we go again . . .

For, whereas in fact they anciently had the charge of the poor, they attribute to them some kind of nugatory function, as carrying the chalice and patena, the pitcher with water, and the napkin to the altar, pouring out water for the hands, &c. Then, by the offerings which they are said to receive and bring in, they mean those which they swallow up, as if they had been destined to anathema. There is an admirable correspondence between the office and the mode of inducting to it—viz. receiving from the bishop the patena and chalice, and from the archdeacon the pitcher with water, the manual and trumpery of this kind. They call upon us to admit that the Holy Spirit is included in these frivolities. What pious man can be induced to grant this?

Well, millions of pious Catholic men, that's who!

But to have done at once,

What a blessing.

we may conclude the same of this as of the others,

That is, mindless opposition to Anything Catholic, using any conceivable sort of nonexistent, incoherent, sophistical, convoluted, discombobulated "reasoning" that can be brought to the table . . .

and there is no need to repeat at length what has been explained above.

Thank you Calvin! My dinner is soon ready! And I've had more than enough of Calvin's ubiquitous puerile inanities for one day.

To the modest and docile (it is such I have undertaken to instruct), it will be enough that there is no sacrament of God, unless where a ceremony is shown annexed to a promise, or rather where a promise is seen in a ceremony. Here there is not one syllable of a certain promise, and it is vain, therefore, to seek for a ceremony to confirm the promise. On the other hand, we read of no ceremony appointed by God in regard to those usages which they employ, and, therefore, there can be no sacrament.

Calvin has spoken; the case is therefore closed.